However, the jibes that really get me are the ones that pertain to Britain's use of right-hand steering wheels - a design that American cars themselves once employed.
|The 1910 Zimmerman and 1908 Auburn were both right-hand-drive|
Until this, though, long after a law was passed in 1792 mandating that vehicles - horse buggies and the like - must travel along the right-side of the road, it was widely accepted that steering should take place on the right. Evidence of this can still be seen today, in fact, in Amish communities, where horse buggies are steered in this manner.
When mass production of American cars began in the late 19th Century, it was widely viewed that right-hand steering was the preferred method, since it had evidently worked out just fine for the journeymen of yesteryear.
However, by the turn of the century, motor companies began looking for innovative new ways to sell their latest product. Cadillac introduced the first lever-operated headlights, while the Marmon Motor Company is believed to have pioneered the use of a rear-view mirror at the 1911 Indianapolis 500. And so it was that Ford introduced left-hand steering in 1908.
Because it was later seen that left-hand steering was conducive to safer driving (since it was easier for the driver to judge his or her proximity to oncoming traffic), this new way of steering became virtually standardised by the mid-1910s (it should be noted, though, that some automobiles - such as those from the Pierce Arrow line - only converted to left-hand in the early 1920s).
So what does all of this mean in regard to American perceptions of British cars? Well let's break this down into numbers: in the 221 years since the keep-right law was first introduced in the United States, right-hand steering was widely used for roughly 123 of those years. This means that for over half of that time, Americans - who, as stated above, get a good laugh out of mocking the British right-hand steering wheel - used the right-hand steering wheel.